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The Unincorporated Man
by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
$25.95, SciFi/Tom Doherty, 479pp
Copyright 2009
This is a debut novel and a very interesting effort, very reminiscent of Heinlein. Justin Cord is a time traveler – he put himself into a cryogenic suspension in our century when he found himself dying. But Justin didn’t manage that feat in the ordinary way; Justin was far from ordinary himself. Since he was extremely wealthy, he contracted for his own design and then hid himself in a cavern. Because of this, he survived for 300 years, missing a huge societal collapse. By the time he was found by a prospecting miner, he was easily revived to good health and a younger body; but into a world he couldn’t accept. The collapse was so bad, the world turned to a radical idea to save itself.

The authors postulate the idea that since capitalism only works for those on top and we still have the starving masses; and communism takes away individualism; then we need something in-between. And what they came up with is a world where every living person is incorporated. What this means is that you are born owning a specific number of shares. Your parents retain a percentage; possibly the hospital where you are born retains a percentage, and the government retains the standard 5%. As you age and have a need for higher education, you sell off your shares to pay for that, and a car, and a new computer, and so on. From then on, you work for the benefit of your shareholders. People aspire to buy back their shares and reach a majority when they have more control over their lives. For example, if you wanted to go sky-diving but your shareholders object since they don’t want their investment to be damaged, then you don’t get to go sky-diving. You also lose control over certain other choices – job, place of residence, and even what you eat or drink. But what is gained is unprecedented in human history – no one is hungry, no one is unemployed. And this is because everyone is responsible to everyone else. We care about each other because they are our income. And, there are no taxes.

Into this brave new world comes a man who stands outside the system. And we’re talking about a really huge system – mankind has left for the stars and most of the population is off earth. Justin Cord is the ‘one free man’ left in the system. But is that freedom everything he thought it was? Was his society really free? How free is the bum on the street pushing a cart, wondering where his next meal is? And how free is the corporate executive who wears Armani but who works eighteen hours a day?

In this world, everyone is free of hunger and fear; and they believe they are the first truly free society in human history. Taxes has become a foul word and everyone expects Justin Cord to become incorporated. But in his heart, he cannot. To him, this society is a breath away from slavery and he refuses to own anyone.

So the stage is set: the system against Cord. The system, represented by the most powerful corporation and its Chairman, fighting against the growing anarchy, is trying to protect the billions who view Justin Cord as a romantic hero. Justin Cord, who feels justified in maintaining his moral high ground despite the growing riots and deaths, cannot accept that the current system is the best thing to ever happen to mankind.

This was a very enjoyable read; as I said earlier, very Heinlein-esque. I could almost see Lazarus and Jubal. It was a very well-thought-out plot, and good characterizations. The pacing was good for most of the book; although there was some time in the middle when I thought the authors indulged in a little too much exposition. I look forward to their next effort. ~~ Catherine Book

P.S. This review was written in 2009 and reposted here. Please see my reviews on the whole series: The Unincorporated War, The Unincorporated Woman and The Unincorporated Future.

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